Special K Cereal: True Health Revealed

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2850-2422234890_34da017968_m.jpgSpecial K cereal is probably one of the most popular cereals for adults.

But, does that make it the healthiest? Probably not, considering the majority of people are overweight.

If you choose Special K cereal for your breakfast or as part of the Special K Diet, you may want to think again.


2851-special-k-nutrition.gifRice followed by wheat gluten, and sugar are the first ingredients in Special K, original flavor. High fructose corn syrup follows closely after.

So far, this says to label readers that this cereal is sugary and likely has a high glycemic index. This means that the food will cause a faster spike in blood glucose, and then leave you feeling tired and hungry.

Wheat gluten is used to improve the texture and flavor.

Wheat germ is what gives the cereal most of its nutrition. Defatted means that the fat is taken out so that the grain has a longer shelf life. The wheat germ is what adds the small amount of fiber, and some of the protein to the cereal.

Special K contains a significant amount of salt (223mg). When reading cereal labels, I like to see the sodium below 200mg.

Dried whey is a common food additive used for flavor, and is actual whey protein with the moisture removed. This contributes to the protein content of the cereal.

Malt adds flavor as well. The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals.

Nutrition Facts

The calories aren’t high, and the actual sugar (4g) is not outrageous even though the first few ingredients are sugar. This is surprising, but still does not make Special K cereal a healthy choice. The fiber content is actually less than a gram!


The main problem I have with this cereal is that it is not a high enough quality grain. It lacks the necessary fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals to start the day off right.

Many people use this cereal to control calories, but you would be better off eating a piece of fruit with a few almonds.

Do you eat Special K or have you tried the Special K Diet?


  1. Ross

    This article is false and misleading. First of all, Special K has no gluten in it. I am not sure where the idiot author got the ingredient list but it is NOT SPECIAL K ORIGINAL. I have lost over 100 pounds on Special K and can vouch that it works great! Only a moron would believe the nonsense written here.

    • Ted

      Special K Original “Rice, wheat gluten, sugar, defatted wheat germ, contains 2% or less of salt, whey, malt flavor, calcium caseinate. Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), reduced iron, niacinamide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B12, vitamin D3. ” This is from the Special K website. Gluten is the second ingredient. Perhaps you need reading glasses?

  2. Cp

    This is not the ingredient list on the special k website.

    • Connie

      This is old information . I have 3 kinds of Special K & none have. high fructose corn syrup, the highest sodium count is 200, the others are lower. Only 1 had anything that said hydrogenated. If it isn’t enough food for you eat something healthy to go with it or eat something else. Last I looked there are alot of choices out there healthy or unhealthy. It’s not like someone is forcing you. Other than health food cereals this one is not as bad as most!

  3. Kai

    They’ve made it really stupid though. In one country I’ve been in there was no sugar and no artificial sweeteners either. But in the U.S. and most other countries there’s sugar as third ingredient, which makes it less tasty and I’ve stopped buying it because of this immense sugar.

  4. Jack

    It’s 11:53 and I’m eating it and I looked up if it was bad that I liked it as much as I do and now I’m here… Just eat it.. Love your body and eat it. It’s good. I like it. Mmmm I want more

  5. trajayjay

    I never saw what was so healthy about a Special K diet.First of all, it’s best to eat natural whole foods on a diet, instead of foods that have had the bad parts/good parts stripped away, like the bran from wheat. Next, this diet isn’t very proportional, it contains very little fat, which is important in any diet, whether trying to gain, lose, or maintain. (I know a lot of you will disagree w/ me about this) it’s necessary for hormone production. The “foods” are also quite high in sugar and hydrogenated oils. It just doesn’t make sense how something so nutritionally devoid can be so filling, which brings me to another point. It sounds like a starvation diet, and you rarely eat a meal above 200 calories, so you eat about 1100 calories. Eating too few calories can actually slow down your metabolism, making your body burn less calories even at rest.

  6. samya shrivastava

    just bought a pack of kellogs special k, i now think i shouldn’t use it after reading all the comments :/ is it that bad?? i mean it might do a little something to reduce weight…….

    • ted

      It’s just not the best thing to use as a meal replacement. A bowl of steel cut oats and some fruit would be better.

  7. Mrs W

    Special K has never kept me feeling satisfied until lunchtime and can make me more likely to snack mid morning.

  8. Sandy

    Have you tried the Special K Protein Plus? It has 100 calories, 10g protein, 5 g fiber, 2g sugar per 1 oz serving or 3/4 cup. It is tasty and satisfies me when I’m in the mood for eating cereal. I only buy when it is on sale and can’t find it at every grocery store.

  9. Kait

    First off, I would like to say your blogs are very informative. Being the daughter of a Dietition, it’s nice to see a blog that is truthful.

    I tried the Special K diet for about a day, it didn’t work. It has to be a life style change, not a diet. Calorie restriction leads to temporary weight-loss, not permanent.

    I agree with all that you have to say regarding this blog. Fibre is an important part of the diet, and if one is looking to increase fibre, he/she may want to find other sources.

  10. S.s.s

    What was your diet program ? What u used to eat .

  11. Dan Moffett

    There is no such thing as healthy wheat.
    You should read the book called “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis to learn more about the dangers of wheat.
    I’ve lost 144 pounds in the past 20 months by cutting out sugar and wheat.

  12. Blueclover56

    What cereal would you recommend in place of Special K?

    • angela

      special k satisfaction with 10 grams of protein.

    • trajayjay

      oats, quinoa, whole grain grits maybe.

  13. Spectra

    I am not a big fan of Special K–it’s overpriced and doesn’t fill me up like a more fiber-rich cereal does.

  14. rainbowlove83

    Majority of cereal out there is no good..I was even surpris ed to learn that Kashi cereal is full of GMO’s, and I used to eat it all the time, thinking it was legit.
    I only eat Nature’s Path Cereals…they are certified organic and made of pure ingredients…no additives and bad sugars/fats at all.

    Here’s a link to a Cereal Scorecard that I found very helpful in deciding what brands to get.


    • Logan

      Actually, Nature’s Path uses evaporated cane juice and that is a processed sugar no matter how you look at it.

      Plus, they title their cereals with Hemp or Flax or Chia and then you look at the ingredients and they are in there right before sea salt (which adds sodium) so obviously they aren’t in the cereal in decent quantities.

      I am not a fan of Nature’s Path or Kashi or Special K. I make my own cereals now with quinoa, amaranth, nuts, fruit and yogurt.

    • Your Name

      aaand what is the problem with GMOs???? Do you even know what they are?

  15. Jim F.

    You could do a lot worse than eating Special K for breakfast – but their original claim of “lose 6 pounds over 2 weeks” was a little ambitious.

    I find these kinds of cereals don’t fill me up. Oatmeal does (it just takes a lot longer to eat hot oatmeal on a busy morning).

  16. T. Kallmyer

    Steel cut oatmeal with some nuts and dried fruit mixed in and a tablespoon of low fat plain Greek yogurt on top would be a much healthier option and would keep you feeling full longer.

  17. S.S.s

    What other healthier option can you suggest?

  18. Lana

    I used to eat Special K years ago. I wouldn’t touch the stuff now, specifically for the reasons you outlined above. I feel like Kellogg’s is preying on the uneducated and or ignorant. I remember reading their “diet” was “replace two meals with 2 bowls of special k…” and you will lose weight. That is just setting you up for failure. There is no substance to the cereal, it’s not filling. The fruit cereals are even worse than the plain, they have a lot more sugar. Kellogg’s really bothers me. They just lie to the public.

  19. LBC

    I don’t really like Special K, but my main problem with it, at a practical level, is that you have to eat about 6 servings of it to feel satisfied. It just doesn’t have any substance.